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At Large

Bullies and blowhards

/ 05:34 AM September 15, 2017

What will P1,000 get you these days? One lunch at an eat-all-you-can buffet, a pair of fairly decent shoes, a high-end cake, a haircut at an upscale salon, and an almost-full tank of gasoline.

Which just goes to show how absurd is the grant of a P1,000 budget for the Commission on Human Rights. The House of Representatives might well be telling the CHR to close shop, for what could it do with P1,000? One trip to visit the family of an EJK victim alone would wipe out much of this budget.

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It is, says #EveryWoman, a grouping of various women’s organizations, “an act of bullying and a warning to those who dare call out this administration for what it is doing to our fellow Filipinos.”

In a statement addressed to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, former presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said: “You hate the CHR not because it was not doing its job. You hate the CHR because it was precisely doing its job, putting itself out as a stumbling block and doing a nearly impossible task of investigating the unmitigated killings that are no longer just statistics of more than 12,000 dead but now have faces and names to the numbers.”

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And did none of the 119 legislators who voted “aye” ever read the Constitution? And if some did, what was so hard about understanding the mandate of the CHR, which is to safeguard the human rights of any citizen victimized by forces of the state—the police and the military?

But even if they did in fact “get” it, how much were they influenced by the President who admitted that the budget cut was really targeted at CHR Chair Jose Luis Martin Gascon? He described Gascon as “yellow,” who “opens his mouth in a most inappropriate way.” (Talking about the pot calling the kettle black.)

But shed no tears as yet for Gascon and the CHR, since senators have said they will oppose the budget slash and promise to bring the budget talks to a stalemate.

If the budget is not approved in time, the budget of all government agencies will revert to the previous amounts allocated to them. In the case of the CHR, last year’s budget is even bigger than the one it is seeking now.

But a closer look at the entire proposed budget for 2018 shows a cause for deeper concern. Human rights group Karapatan describes this budget as a “war chest against the Filipino people.” The plan for a P3.7-trillion budget, the group says, is to use most of the funds for its counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan, as well as for the state’s “bloody war on drugs.” Says Karapatan: “Both programs are designed to inflict further State terror and violence on the poor, while public funding for social programs on housing, education, and health services have been or are practically rendered nonexistent.”

The loud outcry against the real intent of the national budget has been matched with action, with the “separation” of seven party-list representatives belonging to the Makabayan Bloc from the Majority Coalition. This, they said, is to “intensify our opposition to the Duterte administration that has now fully unraveled as a fascist, pro-imperialist and anti-people regime.”

As if they weren’t busy enough slashing the budgets of bodies whose heads have offended, one way or another, the President, the administration, or influential legislators, members of Congress are also preoccupied with working for the impeachment of the heads of independent state institutions. The Supreme Court, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Elections are all under threat of having their heads chopped off.

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Most under threat for now is Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the case against whom has been found to be “sufficient in form and substance.” Comelec Chair Andy Bautista is facing impeachment charges for alleged unexplained wealth, and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales is threatened with ouster despite the fact that her term expires next year.

Meanwhile, little is getting done in the House, and whatever new bills have been passed since last year have been largely the work of opposition senators. Intrigues and retribution seem to be the order of the day.

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TAGS: At Large, Bullies and blowhards, Commission on Human Rights, P1000, Rina Jimenez-David
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